John Avery club gets $60,000 for gang prevention

Mar. 13, 2014 @ 08:22 PM

Money talks, and the $60,000 that John Avery Boys & Girls Club of Durham got Thursday speaks clearly to a core theme: Stay out of gangs.

For the fourth consecutive year, DPR Construction donated money to the club, which serves more than 700 disadvantaged youths each year.

The money will be used to prevent youngsters from being drawn into the gang life.

“DPR has been a great supporter, and it’s year after year, not just a one-time deal,” said Ralph Frasier Jr., the club board chairman and a criminal defense attorney. “None of them [club members] have come to see me, and that’s a good thing.”

Indeed, of the 1,500 Durham youths served by the club in the past three years, not one has had a brush with police, according to Jerome Levisy, the club’s executive director.

The DPR donations have gone a long way in making the gang-prevention goal a reality, he said.

“We're able to give individualized attention, get the right staff and provide training thanks to the DPR funds,” he said. “We can focus on what the real problems are.”

The nonprofit club serves those from ages 6 to 18, and includes classes in mentoring, leadership and financial literacy -- especially helpful for older members who look after younger siblings while their parents work a second or third job, he said.

Bankers and financial advisers come to the club on East Pettigrew Street near downtown to donate their expertise.

Mindy Gray, who represents DPR Construction, said the company has given the Durham club $240,000 since it lost its gang-prevention funding four years ago.

“The members will work with the sheriff’s office in building relationships, and learn how to avoid the pressures to join a gang,” she said. “We’re trying to give these kids an opportunity to become upstanding citizens.”

One club member who is doing that is 17-year-old Liteshsha Garrett, who has been coming to John Avery since kindergarten.

Garrett, a senior at Josephine Dobbs Early College High School at N.C. Central University, has been accepted to five colleges. Her goal is to be a pediatrician.

“I like the positive influence that the club offers,” she said. “My motivation [to succeed] gets stronger every day.”